Article by Karine Monié, Vogue Arabia
Based in the UAE’s Fujairah, Thafer Al Bazae frequently travels the region as the creative design director of Eva Interiors. The studio, founded by Seema Al Mansoory in 2009, is currently working on several palaces and large private residences in the Middle East and Europe for royals and celebrities. Al Bazae – a British architect and designer with Yemeni roots – along with his wife Aliah, felt the need for their own pied-à-terre in Dubai, which led to the purchase of an off-plan property in 2017. “We selected this one-bedroom apartment primarily for the Downtown Dubai location with the intention to design and remodel it upon handover in 2022,” he remembers.
Originally a white box, the home is now the opposite. “The last thing I wanted to create was a modernist or minimal apartment,” confesses Al Bazae. Instead, he drew inspiration from the Georgian period “between 1740-1830 when beautiful Palladian-style houses and interiors were created in London and other parts of England with references to ancient Greece and Rome,” he describes. Through the remodel, everything was made to get the most of the 83 sqm space. “Although small apartments usually have entrance areas filled with doors, I decided to remove them completely and instead fully panel the room to create ‘jib’ ones (secret doors),” explains Al Bazae. “This allowed for some artworks to be installed on the door itself.”
Among the home’s features that echo this era are the symmetry, the classical millwork, and several pieces including the George II-style frame in the manner of William Kent over the stone fireplace. “I think that because of the combination of growing up in England and my interest in history and art at school, I developed a passion for design and an admiration of the past, but in a way where it could meet with the present,” says Al Bazae. Throughout the years and while visiting some of the great English houses to do sketch studies, he developed his own style. “I used to admire minimalist rooms and how nice they appeared in photographs, but with time, I became convinced that they probably weren’t the most comfortable of spaces to live in, which is reflected in this rather maximalist home,” he says.
As a reference to Regency interiors, blue is the prominent color in the main room. “The palette consists of varying shades, from the subdued to the intense,” Al Bazae elaborates. “Because we have such intricate plaster moldings, I felt we needed to highlight those with the introduction of gilding – and this effect works beautifully on the blue background. No combination of colors seems to be more classic than that of blue and white. This is evident in English Wedgewood, for example.”
In this modestly sized home, Al Bazae surprisingly opted for large furniture to reflect comfort and encourage sitting and relaxing. With its vibrant shade of blue damask, which is a silk and wool blend from Lelièvre, the bespoke sofa is one of his favorite pieces. Facing it, the eccentrically designed console table can double as a concealed TV unit. The pedestals and table lamps are custom-made from a rare marble that Al Bazae sourced in Italy called Breccia di Medicea, with gilded cast bronze details from Bronze d’Art Français. “We often try to use this marble in our projects whenever the budget allows and the client has preference for richly veined marbles,” he says. Carved from solid English Portland stone, the chimney piece took six months to produce by Jamb, a London-based shop that specializes in antiques and reproductions. Above it hangs a William Kent-style frame with an intense blue artwork. Ideal for working from home, the Louis XVI-style desk complements the neoclassical armchairs. “I don’t like empty spaces under tables so here we used a French Empire-style gilded bench upholstered in zebra hide to fit neatly underneath.”
Manufactured by Wilkinson, the English Regency-style chandelier is the same model as the one used by the late designer Alberto Pinto for the Royal Suite in The Lanesborough Hotel in Knightsbridge. “I deliberately wanted to go in the exact opposite route from the norm of contemporary apartment living and create a classic English interior with an eclectic twist,” says Al Bazae, who pushes this concept even further for a more personal reason. “I think I always go through phases of missing London, and this was something more of a home away from home that could remind me of the British capital while being located in the center of Dubai,” he says.
Thafer Al Bazae with Eva Interiors’ founder Seema Al Mansoory.